BAME Maternity Investigation Reaches Sobering Conclusions

BAME Maternity Investigation
BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam In: Medical Negligence

Findings from Birthright’s BAME Maternity Investigation

The charity Birthright has conducted a year-long investigation into the experiences of Black and Asian women receiving maternity care within the NHS across the UK. The outcomes of the BAME maternity investigation were sobering. Black women were found to be four times more likely to die in childbirth and Asian woman twice as likely than white women.

The investigation involved input from over 300 individuals with experience of racial inequality covering a whole range of maternity services. It found evidence of racial stereotypes, assumptions based on race, and pre-conceived notions of pain tolerance. One of the most commonly reported experiences was that of black and Asian women being denied pain relief due to an assumption that they could tolerate pain. There were also numerous reports of Asian women being referred to as ‘princesses’ and black women as ‘aggressive’. There were also examples of overt racism throughout the case studies. The experiences led to distress and trauma, for both the woman and their families.

Common themes emerged from across the evidence;

  • Lack of physical and psychological safety
  • Being ignored and disbelieved
  • Racism by caregivers
  • Dehumanisation
  • Lack of choice, consent, and coercion
  • Structural barriers
  • Workforce representation and culture

Birthright’s 5 Calls to Action

As a result of the enquiry, Birthright has called upon all parts of the maternity system to achieve five calls to action in order to achieve racial equality including decolonising maternity curriculums, making black and Asian women decision-makers in their own care, creating safe and inclusive workforces, committing to being an anti-racism organisation and dismantling structural barriers to racial equality through national policy change.

Representing BAME Medical Negligence Claims at AWH

AWH Solicitors currently represent an Asian woman who reports her wishes being ignored and overlooked when she attended Hospital with bleeding during pregnancy. The client required an emergency c-section, however, consent was not sought from either the client or her husband, who attended with her. The client reports racial and cultural prejudices compounding the negative experience. The case is currently being investigated by the NHS, and we are supporting the family through this difficult time.

Women from BAME backgrounds are generally at greater risk of long-term health problems than white women, with black women more likely to have conditions that can put them at greater risk, including cardiac disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, with some of the reasons attributed to social factors associated with health, including poverty, education and housing and living in areas lacking good hospitals or having access to primary healthcare. The reasons for the existence of such disparity in maternity experiences aren’t singular and is not something that will change overnight.

Steps the NHS is Taking For BAME Women

The NHS are already taking steps to improve the outcome for BAME women, and via the ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ commit to ensuring that by 2024, three quarters of pregnant BAME women will receive care from the same midwife before, during and after they give birth. This is proven to help reduce pre-term births, hospital admissions, the need for intervention during labour and to improve women’s over experience of care.

For women who are unfortunate to suffer injury and loss due to any aspect of maternity care, pursuing a claim for clinical negligence is a way of obtaining compensation and can also promote change within the NHS to ensure these failings don’t happen again. That is why it remains so important for anyone who is unhappy with how they are treated in the NHS to come forward and complain, regardless of race or background.

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